External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday said that India was concerned at the “direction of events” in Afghanistan, hours after the Taliban claimed that it controlled around 85% of the country’s territory, reported The Hindu.
At a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Jaishankar said that usually when there is a volatile situation in a country, the citizens of the place are left to work it out. “But Afghanistan is a very different case because for more than 30 years there have been international conferences, there have been groups, and formats to discuss how to stabilise and bring peace to Afghanistan, because it has proven implications for regional security and stability,” he added.
Jaishankar added that there was a “legitimacy aspect” to whoever gets to govern Afghanistan.
At the briefing, Lavrov confirmed that the Taliban has taken over border crossings with Iran and Tajikistan after removing Afghan military forces.
Earlier on Friday, a meeting was held in Moscow between Special Envoy of the Russian President for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and a Taliban delegation led by Sheikh Shahabuddhin Delawar.
After the end of the delegation’s visit, the Taliban made the announcement, which was meant to assure Russia that the gains made by the insurgents in Afghanistan do not threaten it or its allies in Central Asia, according to AP.
The Taliban’s claim of controlling 85% of the country is much higher than its earlier statements, which had said that over a third of Afghanistan’s 421 districts were in its control.
Since United States President Joe Biden announced in April that he would pull back troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have taken control of several districts. In the last few weeks, the group has seized border crossings with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.
However, the Taliban on Friday said that it will not attack provincial capitals or seize them by force. Sheikh Shahabuddhin Delawar, who led the delegation, said that the Taliban would “not allow anyone, any individual, any entity to use the soil of Afghanistan against the neighbouring country, regional country and world country, including the United States and its allies.”
“We don’t want to fight,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Sohail Shaheen said. “We want to find a political resolution through political negotiations.”
Afghan government officials have dismissed the Taliban’s claims as part of a propaganda campaign, reported Reuters. Officials have, however, said that the group has grown emboldened by the withdrawal of troops and captured an important district in Herat province. Torghundi, a town bordering Turkmenistan, was also captured overnight, they added.
Fighting was also reported from Kandahar, where the Afghanistan government had to send in more troops to protect the prison from the Taliban’s attempts to free the inmates.
Russia, which fought a 10-year-long war in Afghanistan that ended with Soviet troops withdrawing in 1989, has emerged as a mediator and held several rounds of talks, attended by the Taliban. This is despite Moscow labelling them a terrorist organisation.
Meanwhile, a World Health Organization official said health workers in Afghanistan were struggling to get medicines and supplies and that some staff had fled after facilities of the global health body came under attack.
“We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care,” said Rick Brennan, the WHO’s regional emergencies director.
Brennan said that at least 18.4 million, or 1.84 crore, people need humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million, or 31 lakh, children who are at risk of acute malnutrition.